Quotations about:
    greatness


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Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days — the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Speech, Harrow School, England (1941-10-29)
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Added on 12-Feb-24 | Last updated 12-Feb-24
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AHASUERAS: I am content.
ESTHER: Content is not the pathway to great deeds.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“The Drama of Mizpah: Honeymoon Scene,” Poems of Progress (1909)
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Added on 6-Feb-24 | Last updated 6-Feb-24
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No man is great if he thinks he is.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Daily Telegrams” column (1929-03-01)
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Added on 11-Jan-24 | Last updated 11-Jan-24
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A plain appearance is to ordinary men their proper garb: it suits them and fits them, but it adorns those persons whose lives have been distinguished by grand deeds; I compare them to a beauty who is most charming in négligé.

[Un extérieur simple est l’habit des hommes vulgaires, il est taillé pour eux et sur leur mesure; mais c’est une parure pour ceux qui ont rempli leur vie de grandes actions: je les compare à une beauté négligée, mais plus piquante.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 2 “Of Personal Merit [Du Mérite Personnel],” § 17 (2.17) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

That Simplicity of outward Appearance, which in vulgar Men seems to be their proper Clothes, shap'd and fitted to their Size, is the ornamental Habit of those Persons whose Lives have been full of great Actions. I compare 'em to a Beauty, that is more charming for being negligent.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

A plain Exterior is to ordinary Men their proper Garb, shaped and fitted to their Size, but is an ornamental Habit in those Persons whose Lives have been distinguished by signal Actions. I compare them to a Beauty, most charming when à la negligé.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

Outward simplicity befits ordinary men, like a garment made to measure for them; but it serves as an adornment to those who have filled their lives with great deeds: they might be compared to some beauty carelessly dressed and thereby all the more attractive.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

 
Added on 28-Nov-23 | Last updated 28-Nov-23
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The root of human virtue seldom bears
Like branches; and the Giver wills it so,
That men may know it is His gift, not theirs.
 
[Rade volte risurge per li rami
l’umana probitate; e questo vole
quei che la dà, perché da lui si chiami.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 2 “Purgatorio,” Canto 7, l. 121ff (7.121-123) (1314) [tr. Sayers (1955)]
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Dante noting that the sons of great kings rarely measure up to their fathers, a reminder from God that those who would be great must seek His blessing, not rely on their heritage.

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Rarely into the branches of the tree
Doth human worth mount up; and so ordains
He who bestows it, that as his free gift
It may be call’d.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

Rarely shoots merit up into the boughs,
Or human worth; and such the will of Him,
That from the Donor they should seem to come.
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches
The probity of man; and this He wills
Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him.
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

Seldom rises human goodness through the branches; and this wills He who gives it in order that from Him it may be claimed.
[tr. Butler (1885)]

But rarely in the branch again is grown
Our human excellence, so willeth He
Who gives it, that the boon be called His own.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

Rarely doth human goodness rise through the branches, and this He wills who gives it, in order that it may be asked from Him.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

Rarely doth human probity rise through the sons branches:
and this he wills who giveth it,
so that it may be prayed for from him.
[tr. Okey (1901)]

Rarely does human worth rise through the branches, and this He wills who gives it, that it may be sought from Him.
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

Full seldom human virtue rises through
The branches; and the Giver wills it so,
That they to him for such a gift may sue.
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

Rare is the tree that lifts to every limb
the sap of merit -- He who gives, so wills
that men may learn to beg their best from Him.
[tr. Ciardi (1961)]

Rarely does human worth rise through the branches, and this He wills who gives it, in order that it may be asked from Him.
[tr. Singleton (1973)]

Not often does the sap of virtue rise
to all the branches. This is His own gift,
and we can only beg that He bestow it.
[tr. Musa (1981)]

Rarely does human worth rise through the branches;
That is the will of him whose gift it is,
So that it should be matter for petition.
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

How seldom human worth ascends from branch to branch,
and this is willed by Him who grants that gift,
that one may pray to Him for it!
[tr. Mandelbaum (1982)]

Seldom does human probity rise up through the branches, and this is willed by him who gives it, that it may be attributed to him.
[tr. Durling (2003)]

Human worth rarely increases through its branches: and this He wills who creates it, so that it may be asked for of him.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

It seldom happens that man’s probity
will rise through every branch. He wills it thus,
so, given from beyond, it’s known as His.
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2007)]

Rarely does human worth rise through the branches.
And this He wills who gives it,
so that it shall be sought from Him.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

Goodness rarely flows to the spreading branches
Of a family tree, for God who gives it decrees
That since the gift is His, humans must ask it.
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

 
Added on 10-Nov-23 | Last updated 10-Nov-23
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Even within the university world, where the highest calling should be to spark the fires of intellectual exploration and to prepare young minds for engaged and productive participation in our democracy, the mandates of the market have attained prominence. The narrow quest for success crowds out the noble effort to be great — greatness understood as using one’s success to make the world a better place for all.

Cornel West
Cornel West (b. 1953) American philosopher, political activist, social critic
Democracy Matters, ch. 6 (2004)
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Added on 11-Oct-23 | Last updated 11-Oct-23
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How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child
Julia Child (1912-2004) American chef and writer
(Misattributed)
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Not found in Child's works, it appears to have been coined by Joan Barthel in an article about Child: "How to Avoid TV Dinners While Watching TV," New York Times Magazine (1966-08-07):

"The French Chef" [...] educational TV's answer to underground movies and pop-op cults -- the program that can be campier than "Batman," farther-out than "Lost in Space" and more penetrating than "Meet the Press" as it probes the question: Can a Society be Great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?"

The article is quoted in Noël Riley Fitch, Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child (1997).
 
Added on 4-May-23 | Last updated 4-May-23
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The greatest men are connected with their own century always through some weakness.

[Die größten Menschen hängen immer mit ihrem Jahrhundert durch eine Schwachheit zuammen.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Elective Affinities [Die Wahlverwandtschaften], Part 2, ch. 5, “From Ottilie’s Journal [Aus Ottiliens Tagebuche]” (1809) [Niles ed. (1872)]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

The greatest human beings are always linked to their century by some weakness.
[tr. Hollingdale (1971)]

 
Added on 9-Jan-23 | Last updated 9-Jan-23
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At court, far from regarding ambition as a sin, people regard it as a virtue, or if it passes for a vice, then it is regarded as the vice of great souls, and the vices of great souls are preferred to the virtues of the simple and the small.

[A la cour, bien loin de faire un crime de l’ambition, on s’en fait une vertue; ou si elle y passe pour un vice, du reste on la regarde comme le vice des grandes âmes, et l’on aime mieux les vices des grandes âmes que les vertus des simples et des petits.]

Louis Bourdaloue
Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704) French Jesuit priest, preacher
Quoted in Bernart Gorethuysen, The Bourgeois: Catholicism vs. Capitalism in Eighteenth-Century France (1927) [tr. Ilford (1968)]
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Added on 29-Nov-22 | Last updated 29-Nov-22
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I remind young people everywhere I go, one of the worst things the older generation did was to tell them for twenty-five years “Be successful, be successful, be successful” as opposed to “Be great, be great, be great”. There’s a qualitative difference.

Cornel West
Cornel West (b. 1953) American philosopher, political activist, social critic
“Democracy Matters,” speech, San Francisco (1 Oct 2004)
 
Added on 10-Nov-22 | Last updated 10-Nov-22
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The mind is formed by the knowledge and the direction of ideas it receives and the guidance it is given. Great things alone can make a great mind, and petty things will make a petty mind unless a man rejects them as completely alien.

[Weil der menschliche Geist durch die ihm mitgetheilten Kenntnisse und Ideenrichtungen erzogen wild. Nor das Grosse kann ihn grostartig, das Kleine nur kleinlich machen, wenn er et nicht wie elwas ganz Fremdes ganz von sich stösst.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 2, ch. 2 “On the Theory of War [Über die Theorie des Krieges],” § 40 (2.2.40) (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1976)]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

The human mind is trained by the knowledge imparted to it, and the direction given to its ideas. Only what is great can make it great; the little can only make it little, if the mind itself does not reject it as something repugnant.
[tr. Graham (1873)]

The human mind is formed by the kinds of knowledge imparted to it and the direction given to its ideas. Only what is great can make it great; the little can only make it little, if the mind itself does not reject it as something repugnant to it.
[tr. Jolles (1943)]

 
Added on 8-Nov-22 | Last updated 28-Mar-23
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Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 143,000,000 followers, it will no longer be America. Truly American leadership is not of any one man. It is of multitudes of men — and women. Eisenhower - Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man it will no longer be America - wist.info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
“An Open Letter to America’s Students,” Reader’s Digest (1948-10)
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Quoted in different locations with various numbers for the US population. The letter was written while Eisenhower was President of Columbia University.
 
Added on 6-Sep-22 | Last updated 4-Jul-23
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Vices can be elevated, but are always base. Some people see a certain hero with a certain fault, but they don’t realize it wasn’t the fault that made him a hero. An example of people in high places is so persuasive that it makes people imitate even their ugliness. Adulation mimics even an ugly face, without realizing that what is hidden by greatness is abominated when greatness is lacking.

[Bien pueden estar los vicios realzados, pero no son realces. Ven algunos que aquel héroe tuvo aquel accidente, pero no ven que no fue héroe por aquello. Es tan retórico el ejemplo superior, que aun las fealdades persuade; hasta las del rostro afectó tal vez la lisonja, no advirtiendo que, si en la grandeza se disimulan, en la bajeza se abominan.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 186 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Vices may very well be exalted, but not exalt. Some observe, that such a Heroe hath had such a Vice, but they consider not, that it was not that Vice which made him a Heroe. The example of great men is so good an Oratour, that it persuades one to infamous matters. Sometimes flattery hath affected even bodily defects, without observing, that though they be born with in great men, they are insupportable in the mean.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

Vices may stand in high place, but are low for all that. Men can see that many a great man has great faults, yet they do not see that he is not great because of them. The example of the great is so specious that it even glosses over viciousness, till it may so affect those who flatter it that they do not notice that what they gloss over in the great they abominate in the lower classes.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

The vices may stand high, but they are not high: some see a great man afflicted with this vice or that; but they do not see, that is great not because of it but in spite of it. The portrait of the man high up is so convincing, that even his deformities persuade, wherefore flattery at times mimics them, not seeing, that if in the great such things are overlooked, in the small, they are looked down upon.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 19-Dec-22
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In my opinion, most of the great men of the past were only there for the beer — the wealth, prestige and grandeur that went with the power.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“Fiction in History,” Times Literary Supplement (23 Mar 1973)

Reprinted in his Essays in English History (1976).
 
Added on 6-Jul-21 | Last updated 6-Jul-21
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Strive to be the greatest Man in your Country, and you may be disappointed; Strive to be the best, and you may succeed: He may well win the race that runs by himself.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jan 1747)
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Added on 29-Oct-20 | Last updated 29-Oct-20
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A successful career has been full of great blunders.

Charles Buxton (1823-1871) English brewer, philanthropist, writer, politician
Notes of Thought, #482 (1873)
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Added on 3-Aug-20 | Last updated 3-Aug-20
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The less you speak of your greatness, the more I will think of it.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Remark to Sir Edward Coke
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Quoted in Joseph Sortain, The Life of Francis, Lord Bacon (1851).
 
Added on 8-Jun-20 | Last updated 8-Jun-20
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Most of the great results of history are brought about by discreditable means.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Considerations by the Way,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 7 (1860)
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Added on 21-Apr-20 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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I distrust Great Men. They produce a desert of uniformity around them and often a pool of blood too, and I always feel a little man’s pleasure when they come a cropper.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 29-Jan-20
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Now Jesus himself saw the power that competition holds over men. He did not ignore it. Yet he does something with the conception of competition that hadn’t been done before. He takes the conception which has been used for lower purposes and rescues it from many of its dangers, by suggesting a higher method of its use. This is how he applied the term to his disciples. He saw them in danger of using it for low purposes. They wanted to compete for reputation and position — “which of them should be accounted greatest?” Jesus says so, if you must use the power of competition, if you must compete with on another, make it as noble as you can by using it on noble things. Use it for a fine, unselfish thing. “He that is greatest among you shall serve.” Use it for human good. Who shall be the most useful. Compete with one another in humility. See which can be the truest servant. It seems that Christ says, “Use it, but use it for higher and holier purposes. Use it not to surpass one another in esteem, but use it to increase the amount of usefulness and brother-help.” Such conceptions of competition lead to the surprising and ennobling position that there can be competition without hate and jealousy. Behold! You can struggle to beat and yet rejoice to be beaten.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Cooperative Competition / Noble Competition,” sermon outline
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Added on 23-Nov-16 | Last updated 23-Nov-16
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After sitting next to Mr. Gladstone I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (1872-1956) (Attributed)
 
Added on 15-Aug-16 | Last updated 15-Aug-16
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Time never fails to bring every exalted reputation to a strict scrutiny: the world, in passing the judgment that is never to be reversed, will deny all partiality even to the name of Washington. Let it be denied, for its justice will confer glory.

Fisher Ames (1758-1808) American politician, orator
“Eulogy on Washington” (8 Feb 1800)
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Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 12-May-16
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You don’t become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.

Munroe - become great - wist_info quote

Randall Munroe (b. 1984) American webcomic writer, roboticist, programmer
XKCD, # 896 “Marie Curie” (9 May 2011)
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Added on 20-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1824)
 
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This is the way of greatness. In the supreme moments of history, terms like duty, truth, justice, and mercy — which in our torpid hours are tired words — become the measure of decision. … The straight and righteous path is the shortest and the surest.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
“The Fascination of Greatness,” Today and Tomorrow (7 Sep 1943)
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Added on 16-Dec-15 | Last updated 16-Dec-15
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Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Gay MacLaren, Morally We Roll Along (1938). A recollection of something Twain said to the author when she was a child. More information here.
 
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A consecutive series of great actions never is the result of chance and luck; it is always the product of planning and genius. … Is it because they are lucky that they have become great? No, but by being great, they have been able to master luck.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
Remarks to Emanuel Las Cases (14 Nov 1816)

In The Mind of Napoleon: A Selection from His Written and Spoken Words, ch. 56 [ed. J. Herold (1955)]
 
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Not a day passes over the earth but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows.

Reade - of no note - wist_info

Charles Reade (1814-1884) English novelist and dramatist
The Cloister and the Hearth, ch. 1 (1861)
 
Added on 25-Nov-15 | Last updated 25-Nov-15
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BRUTUS: The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Julius Caesar, Act 2, sc. 1, l. 19ff (2.1.19-20) (1599)
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MALVOLIO: In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.

Shakespeare - greatness thrust - wist_info

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Twelfth Night, Act 2, Sc. 5, l. 147ff (2.5.147-150) (1601)
    (Source)

The phrase appears three times in the play:

  1. As above, Malvolio reading the forged love letter from Maria.
  2. Act 3, sc. 4, l. 42ff, Malvolio recalling the phrases from the letter.
  3. Act 5, sc. 1, l. 393ff, the Fool reciting the second half of the phrase.
See also Boorstin.
 
Added on 11-Nov-15 | Last updated 8-Feb-24
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[T.E. Lawrence] is one of those great men for whom one feels intensely sorry because he was nothing but a great man.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Letter to Virginia Ocampo (12 Dec 1946)
 
Added on 4-Nov-15 | Last updated 4-Nov-15
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Great men are rarely isolated mountain peaks; they are the summits of ranges.

Higginson - great men - wist_info

Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) American minister, author, abolitionist, soldier
“A Plea for Culture,” Atlantic Essays (1871)
 
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We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe: can we not take the leap?
Emerson - greatness - wist_info

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1841-10-28)
 
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When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.

Walter Payton (1954-1999) American football player
(Attributed)
 
Added on 20-Oct-15 | Last updated 20-Oct-15
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It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series (1841)
 
Added on 14-Oct-15 | Last updated 14-Oct-15
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The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.

John Buchan (1875-1940) Scottish novelist, poet, and politician; Governor-General of Canada (1935 -1940)
Montrose and Leadership (1930)
 
Added on 12-Oct-15 | Last updated 13-Oct-15
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Every man of action has a strong dose of egotism, pride, hardness, and cunning. But all those things will be forgiven him, indeed, they will be regarded as high qualities, if he can make of them the means to achieve great ends.

Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) French statesman and soldier
The Edge of the Sword, “Of Prestige” (2) (1934) [tr. Hopkins (1960)]
 
Added on 7-Oct-15 | Last updated 7-Oct-15
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Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, ch. 13 (1759)
 
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If you really want to judge the character of a man, look not at his great performances. Every fool may become a hero at one time or another. Watch a man do his most common actions; these are indeed the things which will tell you the real character of a great man.

Vivekananda (1863-1902) Indian Hindu monk, spiritual reformer, nationalist [b. Narendra Nath Datta]
Swami Vivekananda on Universal Ethics and Moral Conduct [ed. Swami Ranganathananda (1965)]
 
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I am stressing that it is the force of ideas rather than the impact of material things that made us a great nation. It is my conviction, too, that only the power of ideas, of enduring values, can keep us a great nation. For, where there is no vision the people perish.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
 
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And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“The Drum Major Instinct,” sermon, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta (4 Feb 1968)
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He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The Bible (The New Testament) (AD 1st - 2nd C) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 23:11-12
 
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It is the mark of great people to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important.

[Denn zu einem großen Manne gehört beides: Kleinigkeiten als Kleinigkeiten, und wichtige Dinge als wichtige Dinge zu behandeln.]

Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramaturg, writer
Vierunddreißigstes Stück Den 25. Aug 1767, Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767-1769)
 
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Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“A Psalm of Life” (1838)
 
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MORELLA: Greatness is never appreciated in youth, called pride in middle age, dismissed in old age, and reconsidered in death. Because we cannot tolerate greatness in our midst we do all we can to destroy it.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×09 “Point of No Return” (26 Feb 1996)
 
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The first step toward greatness is to be honest, says the proverb; but the proverb fails to state the case strong enough. Honesty is not only “the first step toward greatness,” — it is greatness itself.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, vol. 1 (1862)
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Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004) American historian, professor, attorney, writer
(Attributed)
 
Added on 15-Apr-13 | Last updated 30-Jun-22
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The superior man is the providence of the inferior. He is eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless. He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Liberty”
 
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Great merit, or great failings, will make you be respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done or neglected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #187 (20 Jul 1749)
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All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Great Place,” Essays, No. 11 (1625)
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If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“Letter from a Region of My Mind,” The New Yorker (17 Nov 1962)

Republished as "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind" in The Fire Next Time (1963)
 
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The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Purely Personal Prejudices,” Strictly Personal (1953)
 
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Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“What’s Wrong with Being Proud?” Pieces of Eight (1982)
 
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A cock has great influence on his own dunghill.

[In sterculino plurimum gallus potest.] 

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 357
 
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Great men hallow a whole people and lift up all who live in their time.

Sydney Smith (1771-1845) English clergyman, essayist, wit
“Ireland,” The Edinburgh Review (1820-11)
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Review of Whitewlaw's History off the City of Dublin,, Curwein's Observations on the State of Ireland (1818), and Gamble's Views of Society in Ireland.

Speaking of his friend, Henry Grattan.
 
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